Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world my beautiful, vulnerable self!

Posts tagged ‘mental health’

Staying Afloat in a Typhoon of Emotions

Drowning in a Sea of Emotions

Lately, the rush of emotions comes on suddenly. The fear, the anger, the frustration, and worst of all, the loneliness. For the most part, these feelings aren’t mine, but they engulf me on those occasions when I have to leave the house to run a few errands I couldn’t accomplish with my phone or the internet.

While I’m drowning in the flood, I don’t always take the time to step back and ask if the feelings are mine. I flounder through, singularly focused on finishing what I have to, and rushing back home to the warmth of my personal cocoon. There I can hug a cat or three, and take the time to analyze the feelings overwhelming me.

Sometimes I realize right away I’ve been absorbing the unfiltered emotions of the people around me. Others, it takes a few days, and comments from friends who understand before I recognize what actually happened. The truth is, anywhere people gather, socially distancing or no, there’s a shit storm of emotions no one is trying to mask. It reminds me of someone intoxicated who broadcasts every joy, every hurt, every ounce of pain they normally keep buried.

Emotional Overload Isn’t Just for Empaths

Everyone is overwhelmed right now whether they realize it or not. Heaven knows I didn’t for emotional overloadawhile until it smacked me in the face. I started getting migraines again for no apparent reason. My heart would pound though I had done nothing more than walk around the house. My body would tense up making me afraid to even move.

I’m one of the lucky ones. When I feel those unpleasant feelings, I can write, or go work in the yard. I can clean house, or declutter the garage. I have no end of projects to clear my mind and soul. I think of people closed up in an apartment or condominium with waves of other peoples’ emotions flooding them without respite, and my heart aches. What saves me right now is being able to detach from everyone else’s emotions, and work through mine by doing something physical. There are only so many times you can clean an apartment or condo, or declutter closets.

Combating Emotional Overload With Hard Labor

I have a wealth of opportunities to clean, organize, or be productive. I’ve yet to create any sort of list, aside from my blog schedule. I’ve been overwhelmed by a yard that was becoming a forest until my friend brought over lawn equipment that’s been sitting in a garage unused for several years. There are no lawns to tend in a condo.

Getting my yard back in shape, even with  help is going to take awhile, but it provides me with ample opportunity to work off a lot of this heavy energy. When I get tired of whacking away at weeds or trying to make them resemble a lawn, there are still blogs to write, a house to clean, and even a bathroom to paint.

I also have a huge library of books to read, and more in the electronic libraries of my daughter and me. So no, I won’t run out of things to keep my mind and body busy in between Zoom ballet classes and line dance nights.

A Healthy Dose of Human Connection

I’ve learned though that the one thing I can’t get from my projects and books is the connection https://www.flickr.com/photos/68716695@N06/29720272855/in/photolist-cidCGQ-cidAbW-oxdYzL-yNtP9-axVQZG-UVaRyd-oPHnHz-aEWSPf-cidEi3-cidDJj-pq3vki-cidGwb-cidAUs-cidzEm-cidGg5-6MaBxt-cidzzm-dRCmyq-7N6Ex-9i79bM-axVQZA-cidCsC-cidBSw-cidAyL-cidE3w-dY4eeu-cidBZG-8yJgxE-MhhaFv-Lk5teP-Lk5pNa-Lk5tT4-7M2d6q-cidG7W-7LXeC6-7LXeKr-WdN5Mm-5gktq-8zGa9M-9JanH2-ghRqpv-ehWVQY-LkYuxs-Sk3zxC-TnTsSY-pEomxJ-pEomes-PPJTdd-2aVQK6S-7VzqQPwith people I’ve learned to appreciate in recent years. I need chats on the porch and Saturday night gatherings for my mental as well as physical health. I’m learning that connection isn’t an option if I want to stay healthy. When I see people wandering through a store with no real sense of purpose or direction, I remember that was me not too many years ago, and my heart breaks a little.

I remember my dad and his buddies wandering through the Costco near them, not because they needed anything, but to get out of the house and around people. I used to laugh about it. I’m not laughing now, because I’m beginning to understand.

The worst part of the COVID virus isn’t the number of people who are going to get sick, and even die. It isn’t the businesses who are floundering and may not make it until things start to open up again. Being disconnected from each other; unable to share a meal; unable to hug; unable to combine our individual energy into one big ball of amazing…that’s the worst part. I shudder to think of the casualties caused by lack of connection. They won’t be as obvious, and they, too will take more lives.

Finding New Ways to Feed Your Social Animal

I can’t begin to count the number of times a night out dancing pulled me out of my doldrums and quelled my feelings of worthlessness. Exchanging hugs with my friends, or laughing on the dance floor lifted me back up when I needed it most. How many others depended on a regular social schedule to maintain their sanity? Add financial woes to the mix for many, and the picture isn’t pretty. Is it any wonder many are running afoul of the social distancing orders?

The truth is, when your mental health is on shaky ground, you start to lose interest in maintaining your physical health. Why bother? You ask yourself. Nobody will notice if I gain a few pounds or let my hair get shaggy. So what if I don’t shower for a week or two, or put on clean clothes? You can’t see how many really do care while you’re holed up in your house alone, either by choice, or by necessity. The reason doesn’t matter.

Paying Attention to the Ones You Love

People do care though. Sometimes we don’t recognize it as caring, but they really do. And sometimes it takes a good shaking to remind some to show that caring before it’s too late. I see now I’m one who needed a shaking, and at times, I wallow in the realization I let my parents down by not showing them I cared when they were still around.

I’m getting a little of it back from my daughter Jenni now. I pushed my mom away when I was in my 20’s. Jenni has done the same, and now, in her 30’s with 3 children I doubt I’ll ever get to know, she’s pushed me away harder and further than I ever pushed my mom.

The difference is, I stopped trying to pretend I was OK all the time and let people see the real me. I developed real friendships with give and take. Sometimes I’m the one who uplifts and supports someone, and others, I receive the support. I’ve learned a healthy relationship is synergistic; everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but together, everyone is stronger, more resilient, and most of all, important to the whole.

What’s most important is learning from all the falls I’ve taken over the years. Wallowing in regret won’t make the world a better place, and it won’t make my own life better. What will make a difference is recognizing places where I could have done better, or where I should have asked for help instead of bulldozing my way through until I destroyed the entire structure.

So I notice things like lonely people wandering Costco trying to find a connection. Once upon a time, that person was me.

Ever Grateful for the Many Blessings in My Life

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for lessons learned.
  2. I’m grateful for the trials and tribulations I’ve faced; for the traumas and the challenges that taught me to stop keeping everything to myself, and to trust other people.
  3. I’m grateful for my community which is working overtime to help it’s member stay safe and sane.
  4. I’m grateful for human connection, even from a distance. I’ve tried isolation, and realize even I need people, if in smaller doses than others.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; opportunities, motivation, inspiration, love, joy, community, friendship, connection, balance, peace, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Power of Community for Mental Health

A Community Monitors the Group Mental Health

CommunityEven in the best of times, your mental health and well-being are best supported within a community; people who consider it part of their normal routine to include each other, check on those who are ill or too quiet, and offer help where needed. A strong community is comprised of people who give of themselves without expecting accolades or compensation because they know in their own time of need, there will be someone there to help lift them up or support them until they’re once again able to stand on their own.

In times of quarantine, tragedy, or both, communities are truly tested, and I’m happy to say, after decades of solitude, I am now a member of a community which embodies all the best qualities the word brings to mind, though often finds lacking. Whether it’s moral support, help staying active, something tangible like toilet paper, sundries, or cable, someone is ready to step up and lend a hand. In truth, I’ve never experienced such a giving, caring, supportive mindset before. Not even in my own blood family (except my daughter Heather of course, who has always been generous to a fault).

Within this community are people each of us can share the best and the worst with, and who can be counted on for honesty, not platitudes. There are examples of generosity and compassion that make me want to be a better person; to willingly toss aside the ingrained selfishness that kept me isolated for so many years. Although it sometimes feels foreign to share a closeness like this, it also feels like I’ve finally come home to the place; the people to whom I belong.

When You Find Your Tribe, You’ll Know It

Over the years, I’ve listened to others speak what I carried in my heart; the alone-ness, the feeling of never fitting in, always being on the outside looking in. Like many, I drifted from place to place, social group to social group looking for somewhere I felt comfortable enough to let down my guard. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my deepest desire was to find a place where I could take off the masks my birth family taught me were prescribed attire, no less essential than shirt or shoes. Somewhere deep inside, I knew much of what I’d been taught were lies designed to protect what no longer needed protecting to the degree they believed necessary.

You hear a lot about finding your humanity so you can strive further for a Divinity that’s only truly reached on Earth by a select few. Until I figured out what that actually meant, I was one of the oblivious masses who doesn’t even realize they’re drifting through life without connection; without a true understanding of the components which make a meaningful human life.

Too many grow up believing it’s them against the world, trusting no one, and nearly killing themselves living a life of false perfection. I’m wondering now, what happens to the disconnected masses during a time of crisis?

A Community in Crisis Growing Stronger Every Day

Borderline CommunitySince November 7, 2018, my community has faced crisis after crisis, and though some faced unimaginable losses, the support of the community remained strong. One crisis might leave some members lost and drifting, but often, those were the ones who rose up and shouldered more of the burden when the next crisis hit. Most of all, no one is keeping score. If someone is in need and you have what they need, you offer it without question. In most cases, the offers exceed the need.

Right now, our gathering places are closed. The hugs that are so much a part of our community’s culture are forbidden, and even dangerous. Still, we find ways to help each other from a distance, whether it’s dancing together remotely, talking about life and challenges, checking in on the ones who aren’t as comfortable reaching out, or busy trying to keep it together on their own.

Every day, I see more of what community truly means in the words, actions, and spirit of the people who’ve accepted me as I am. I value it all the more for the years I spent believing I didn’t deserve anything I hadn’t worked hard for, and achieved completely on my own. Little did I know we all go farther when we ask for help, and allow others to give it. The concept runs contrary to everything my family taught me was true.

Choosing Community Over Solitude

In choosing Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am A Rock” over John Donne’s “No man is an island”, I solitudeinadvertently denied myself the joy I know now can only be found by connecting with others, both by virtue of common interests, and an even stronger bond; the one I never suspected; shared trauma.  As my community grows ever stronger with each storm we weather together, I’m happy to admit the humanness and imperfections are the stronger glue that binds us all together.

I know there are those in my community who struggle more than others right now. They’re impacted more severely by solitude and lack of human contact. Many are like me and live alone, or have to maintain space because of the work they do. In our own way, we all safeguard our loved ones by social distancing, but for some, the need is more critical than others. In some ways, I think the emotional toll it takes makes doing an already difficult job that much harder,

Though I spend a lot of time reminding myself to avoid comparisons, this is one area where I’ll berate myself if I’m falling into self-pity. I know I’m safe in my own home, interacting directly with no one, but also putting no one else in danger. I don’t have to go to extremes to protect my loved ones from the place I work. I can’t imagine the toll it’s taking on their mental health to have to come home from a long, stressful day, and go through a ritual of sanitizing before they can even be in the same room with their family; assuming they haven’t already had to send them away, or move out themselves.

Overall, the latest in a long chain of crises affecting my community gives me an even greater appreciation both of the group as a whole, and of the people I’ve grown closer to through similar traumas we’ve learned to navigate past. In all fairness, it’s not only the traumas. With some, it’s cultural similarities or upbringings which give us stronger connections too. Regardless of what connects us (and I’m learning not to analyze it too much), the connections formed through sharing imperfections will always prove stronger and more resilient than faking perfection to fit in ever did.

Gratitude Strengthens Mental Health

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for a community of people who share their human-ness.
  2. I’m grateful for the people who check on me, and those who allow me to check in on them.
  3. I’m grateful for the amusement my dance nights are giving to my resident felines.
  4. I’m grateful for the lessons I learn every day. They move me closer to being Human than I ever thought I’d be.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; connection, love, compassion, joy, sharing, caring, motivation, inspiration, peace, balance, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Ask an Introvert to Dance

Some Find it Hard to Ask

https://www.flickr.com/photos/basykes/7340397856/in/photolist-cbDsxJ-fzRXJH-fzRU3V-GFFVME-87C3ro-epfT1v-6ixEeJ-HRLxVG-58xPj2-Xp8vtU-pXs6to-QHDGiW-t6dtT-6bsVU6-9SurWh-Wdj1Qd-odAC7i-ubQRAd-apXuRr-nJMGvb-9sCtdA-51wq2C-4KXrym-dJLEXx-dfGd8s-6yz6qi-22c7xXE-4KXt7A-219zYfG-Y6ugwd-aokdtX-WXZF7J-8k4FAh-219zYkm-rqFwgT-2gqYSkX-pKNDEY-fngxkg-2rBixn-cAMBNL-6yEkh5-cAMnRj-9Axjsh-WXZF8W-HU8RCu-E72ZqC-8nkuaw-bDCtyG-22eMwC4-64vyhJI’ve been dancing almost all my life. I started with tap and ballet when I was 5. Since then, it’s been a wild and varied ride; folk, square, round, jazz, modern, ballroom, and my current passion; all things Country. I know most of the line dances done in my area, can two-step, waltz, nightclub two-step, West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, and even polka. But mostly I line dance.

It may seem strange given my repertoire but a few bad experiences and my innate shyness mean I simply don’t ask, but instead, wait to be asked which may or may not happen. Years ago I’d ask any available man to dance but after being turned down too many times, often with a lame excuse, or worse; watching him turn away after declining my request to dance with someone else, I gave it up as a bad deal. I decided being a wallflower was better than being turned down. Yes, I dance less than I’d like to. I know it isn’t personal. But a part of me feels it is and crawls further into the shell I’m still not ready to break into a zillion pieces and discard for good.

I’ve often been told I’m intimidating (though not as much lately as before I let some of my walls down). I suspect it has to do with an outward confidence I exude. In truth, it’s only real under certain circumstances. The rest of the time, it’s a carefully constructed and maintained facade originally erected to protect my soft, mushy center. While it’s rarely necessary these days, old habits die hard. The minute I feel even the least bit insecure or uncertain, my outward confidence is elevated to safeguard an ego that’s still easily bruised.

Nip Isolation in the Bud Before it’s Too Late

Even so, I trust too easily these days, letting people I shouldn’t get close. Yet given the choice, I wouldn’t do things differently. I know too well what it feels like to be less trusting; more self-contained. The reality is most introverts do not want to be alone and isolated. It’s a place to recharge, nothing more. Making isolation a permanent residence invites depression. Left with too much alone time to think, I can make a mountain out of a molehill in record time.

In the weeks surrounding the anniversary of the Borderline shooting, I read a lot of posts on Facebook from people who were feeling sad and disconnected, yet felt they didn’t have the right to feel that way since they hadn’t been there that night, nor had they lost a friend or family member. I know a lot of them were feeling the sadness and grief anyway. For many like me, it was a little bit of our own sadness, and a lot coming in from outside. Everywhere were reminders of a night many of us wish we could turn back; bring back the precious lives that were lost, and help a young man who was lost, alone, angry, and struggling.

Our community has it’s heart in the right place. Many people suggest professional help or post and re-post numbers for a suicide hotline. I try to remind people a listening, non-judgemental ear and a shoulder to lean on might be a better solution. It seems too many are still quick to shove the responsibility off on “professionals” who often then shove it off on the latest pharmaceutical wonder. If you ask me, human kindness is a more effective drug with no negative side-effects. I think it should be the first drug of choice before heading to the medical profession in most cases.

People Need to be Included

Sure, there are those who clearly need professional intervention, and I don’t mean to suggest there isn’t a time and a place to consult someone trained to guide people out of dangerous and destructive behavior. I think it might be the last resort instead of the first. But to make it so, more people have to care and be willing to put forth the effort even when it’s not convenient.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ky_olsen/4860839266/in/photolist-n8CFnR-o5uD96-22RQjNp-eCZ3Kq-WYUGZj-DLmHDZ-KKjkM7-8px5ay

For someone like me, it might mean something as simple as being included, or asked to dance. For others, it might take more effort; ask them out to coffee again and again if necessary. I remember feeling unworthy. I was the one who believed people tolerated my presence, but didn’t care whether I was there or not; who believed I was too much of a burden to befriend. I was lost and alone, never realizing the isolation I felt was a product of my own mind, ultimately manifesting in my behavior until it became reality. No one reached out because they had no idea I needed help. My actions had ensured no one asked or felt the need to offer.

Loneliness becomes insidious. The more a person is alone, the more alone they become. It’s as if the world becomes affected with amnesia, at least in their mind. A few years ago I withdrew for a couple of weeks when the drama became too intense. In my mind, no one would even notice my absence. To my surprise, when I returned, a number of people made it clear I was missed. Yet not one reached out while I was gone to ask if I was OK.

Belonging to a Loving, Caring Community is the First Step

Things are different now. If I miss more than a couple regular events, I get texts and Facebook Messages asking if I’m OK…most of the time. Even the best of us get busy and don’t pick up on the signs our friends might leave indicating they’re in distress. It’s why I emphasize a network approach where no one is left alone and floundering. Maybe 6 friends are entangled in the web of their own lives, but there should always be someone whose life is currently less complicated, and available to check on the quiet ones. 

What I’m trying to say in my usual long-winded and convoluted way is everyone needs to be part of a loving, supportive community. Everyone deserves to be part of a community that reaches out and draws them back into the fold when life knocks them sideways, or when they start feeling disconnected, yet accepts them as they are without judgement or expectations. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a dance community like mine which ensures everyone is included and appreciated, a church group, an extended blood family, or some other community formed around a shared interest.

We need to reach a point where no one feels like they have to act badly in order to get attention; where no one is ever left to feel they’re unloved or don’t matter. Each of us is a drop in the Sea of Souls. What we do, think, and feel causes ripples felt further away than we know. When we stop making ripples too soon, or make a gigantic ripple because we’re feeling too alone it causes enormous repercussions in the entire Sea. Sure, sometimes that Sea needs a bit of a tidal wave, but lets make sure those tidal waves are induced for the right reasons. I may be an idealist, but I believe love does conquer all.

Using Gratitude to Keep My Spirits High

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the friendships I formed once I learned I wasn’t unworthy.
  2. I’m grateful for the people who show me what caring, loving, and community look like.
  3. I’m grateful to be included.
  4. I’m grateful for less walls and more open doors.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, compassion, community, joy, hugs, music, belonging, inspiration, motivation, peace, harmony, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

A Sad Anniversary Brings Perspective

Another Anniversary of Dad’s Death

When one of my posting days falls on September 11th, I’m sorely tempted to skip it, or at least move it to another day. But my innate sense of consistency won’t allow either, so at least it’s easier from a distance of 3 weeks or so which is when I’m pre-scheduling these days.

I don’t need to reiterate the significance of September 11th to anyone who is even remotely aware. Not only was it a horrific day in U.S. history, but reminders start showing up a few days before the anniversary.

There’s a small handful of us who are reminded of another anniversary which occurred 2 years after the WTC bombing, but which is much closer to home. In fact, my daughter and I typically disconnect from the internet on this day to do our remembering in private. As I’ve become more efficient about pre-scheduling posts, it’s become a lot easier to do so.

Moving On vs. Getting Over

Anyone who has lost a family member to suicide knows you don’t get over the loss. Like any other death, the impact eases somewhat as years go by, but it’s always there. Little things remind me how fragile life is, and how important it is to stay connected with the ones we love. It might not prevent the inevitable, especially when a loved one is faced with a terminal illness which will be long and painful if death is allowed to come naturally.

My dad made his choice, and for the most part I respect it. Still, I look back at how I distanced myself in his final couple of years when he became difficult to be around. He never shared the worst of his health issues with me or my sister. That was typical. He didn’t want anyone worrying about him or smothering him with attention. In a lot of ways, he was a very private manfar more private than I ever realized.

Even so, I could have made more of an effort to spend more time with him, despite the turmoil my own life was in. I could have brought his granddaughters to see him more often, or made a point of seeing him every week. There are a lot of things I could have done, but being patient with his grumpiness instead of distancing myself is at the top of the list. My only excuse is I didn’t know how bad things were. It serves as a harsh reminder of how little my dad trusted me with what really mattered.

Reflection Evolves Over Time

In past years, the anniversary of dad’s death was a time for reflection and remembering good times, most of which occurred years before he died. Too many things broke what I now understand was a tenuous relationship, often held together by other people rather than our own efforts.

At one time it was my mother. Even when she and I were estranged, it was her influence which kept my dad and me in touch. Sometimes it was the dysfunctional influence of my alcoholic husband who worked for my dad for a couple of years. Whether he felt a desire to stay connected for his own sake is something I’ll never really know. I have to believe he saw someone worth knowing in his eldest child.

An Unfortunate Accident of Birth

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gastaum/14490581818/in/photolist-o5u28y-YfsirJ-k8x7MM-bxbe69-W1rTYx-arWoEp-9hSaAd-ahFY4U-dUPFnv-cbTML-9dRrhQ-nNcDz4-W1scJn-6Q5kQB-aPHuVt-dF2PfA-qsan3a-9Q3GD-7puXf-ca3kUb-8Qnh5S-7EPcJ1-9RZQ7L-2jv27s-3ytNAS-4Ax3Vm-7P6ms6-fLeJCZ-9eA4z4-dUzmHi-dJ2ajE-4s4eeJ-9ZWATV-4Ax3K3-6459Qr-r7YPq9-7ZBske-3ypqPa-7yi435-9uRzwZ-kdLtng-2c5brCn-HLfJSP-qTk7jd-oSdAwv-pNeYXi-3fqAZV-5btNtn-72Kth6-V4V7jqRevelations in the last year make me feel I was more of a disappointment, and mostly due to an accident of birth. The cards were stacked against me having a real connection with the man who helped give me life because I had the misfortune of being a girl.

I doubt he ever actually said the words out loud. Growing up, I didn’t notice his lack of interest in the things I enjoyed. Then again, I saw him through rose-colored glasses. He was the parent who loved me best, or so I thought. In truth, he was the one who minimized my accomplishments because most of the time, he didn’t understand them.

It wasn’t that I was overly feminine. I just wasn’t athletic or even coordinated except when I was dancing. In short, there was nothing he could relate to or share with me. Meanwhile, my mom fretted over all my injuries, allergies, and inherited health challenges. But I was so busy trying to please my dad, I didn’t notice how hard she tried to connect with me. At some point, we both gave it up as a lost cause.

Putting Things in Perspective

This is starting to sound like a long, self-pitying whine, but that’s not really where I want to go. I can’t honestly say I miss my dad, 16 years after he opted out of a long, painful death. I’ve simply come to terms with his choice, and don’t begrudge him for it.

But the years since have given me a chance to really look at our relationship, or if I’m honest, lack thereof. He was the first in a long line of people I tried to please by forcing myself into behaviors which weren’t me. I followed my mother’s example and tried to win his love. I’ve finally learned to accept there was nothing I could have done to change the fact he loved me as best he could, or that approval and love are two entirely different things.

I can, however look back and be grateful for what he taught me, even if the greatest lesson didn’t come through until long after he was gone. It was never my purpose to fit into someone else’s mold or vision. People will love me or not, regardless of any effort I might make to gain their approval. More importantly, I’ve learned to let my own daughters spread their wings and fly in the direction they choose.

Loving and Accepting My Daughters as They Are

They don’t need my approval, though one, at least seemed to want it a great deal more than was probably healthy. The difference between my relationship with her and the one I had with my dad is she always had my approval not matter what. I might not have liked some of the choices she made, but there was never any doubt in my mind that I love and approve of her and whatever paths she chooses.

The other rejected me as I did my mom, but I didn’t have her father around to help mend fences. In her case, I had to learn to let go and withhold judgement. Her choices are her choices, even if some of them shut me out of her life. In many ways, the distance works best for me too.

Looking Back So I Can Move Forward

Today is a day of reflection, but it’s no longer a day I mourn my dad. He’s gone, Created in Canvaand everything is as it’s supposed to be. I’m more aware of changes in mood in the people who are close to me now, and more likely to reach out. I don’t look at my dad’s death and my lack of knowledge with regret. It was put into my life to teach me a very important lessonone I would take with me into the next chapter in my life.

I’ve gone through a lot of withheld anger towards my dad in the last year, but I’ve purged a lot of misconceptions which negatively impacted my own sense of self-worth. In the end, no one else’s opinion affects my destiny unless I allow it. I’ve finally learned to stop allowing it.

Finding Many Opportunities for Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the challenges I’ve faced and the lessons I’ve learned.
  2. I’m grateful for parents who forced me to learn to love myself without reservation or qualification because they truly didn’t know how.
  3. I’m grateful for friendships which have formed since I learned to love myself because of my imperfections instead of in spite of them.
  4. I’m grateful for a self-love that keeps me moving forward even when the tunnel ahead looks awfully dark and forbidding.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; friendship, love, joy, dancing, kitties, compassion, kindness, inspiration, motivation, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Am I a Psycho in Remission? A Guest Post by Don Karp

Mental Health From a Different Perspective

I’ve been talking to a lot of people about the other side of depression, mental health, and suicide. My accountability partner, Don Karp was kind enough to share one of his posts with me so I can share with you a very personal perspective on mental health, professional approaches to treatment, and how one man took matters into his own hands with great success. (With Don’s permission, I’ve edited this post a bit from his original for readability).

Am I a Psycho in Remission?

by Don Karp, © 2018

For most, hearing a controversial viewpoint which goes against their beliefs, provides them with an excuse to reinforce their deep-seated beliefs. Then why do I bother writing this—either preaching to the choir or strengthening opposing beliefs? Well, maybe there’s just a slight outside chance someone hearing my way of expression will see things from my side. I’ll take that gamble.

I’ve published my story elsewhere—how I survived seven mental hospitalizations over a nine-year period (1969-78). The professionals labeled me “paranoid schizophrenic.” Yet here I am, thriving! In 2003 I retired and moved to Mexico. I self-published a memoir in 2013. I’ve taken no meds nor have I been hospitalized since 1978. And I have neither participated in nor needed therapy since 1982—at least not mainstream therapy.

Like many who find themselves in the hands of psychiatric professionals, they told me I might live a “normal” life, or at least one without relapses, if I continued https://www.flickr.com/photos/clevercupcakes/4576733748/in/photolist-7YqXuy-22jbZb8-XZte3w-2E38fh-dtp56c-3NUNY-3NUP3-3NSUZ-3NSUK-VUxVut-aMjLSn-dUKkRp-4JpM4a-abD91G-932Hmu-8fJSDf-62xx8V-3c4zza-dUKms6-5AZhfv-dUQT8y-cPLm-3aqeS9-4NhLC1-4zty2J-4ttyNi-6U4fPj-3akHYp-3e21kE-6T47EL-obfTpE-3dWA6R-h2wXwy-7drB1P-ostgj2-6ieis7-a1LDFH-21n5r2B-q2i6g3-XScYar-dXwB6L-gQahXg-8EdGQ2-qFJcdw-YuGC4s-Jy7Cf2-28d1ChD-PHSfjW-x3xs87-MXhQbuto take the meds they prescribed.

One doctor told me: “You must take your meds for the rest of your life, like a diabetic needs to take insulin.”

The medical model of mainstream psychiatry says the cause of mental illness is a mix of genetics and imbalanced brain chemistry. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the Bible of psychiatry, lists symptoms to categorize those illnesses.

I’ve found no current scientific evidence to validate their conclusions.  As far as I’m concerned, this is pseudoscience.

Why are people’s sufferings reduced to subjective diagnoses from a set of arbitrary rules pretending to be a science? Why are most of them treated with experimental neuro-toxins that kill 500,000 people every year?

What ever happened to the Hippocratic Oath? Or simple human kindness.

Is it because we like simple answers given with confidence and authority?

“It’s just like a physical illness,” they tell us.

If so, where are the blood tests, x-rays, cat scans, and other physiological test results used to diagnose such illnesses?

I believe it all comes down to the guild power of the American Psychological Association, and the profits of Big Pharma, with a little help from media spin. Or to put it more bluntly, profit over people.

Take for example a recent report of a huge study on the genetics of schizophrenia showing a two-fold rise in genetic traceability. Twice as much seems like a lot until you consider the previous baseline. The reality is the starting point was one percent which they’ve now elevated to two percent. Need I say more?

Take note that the antidepressant Prozac came on the market after Reagan took office and instituted neo-liberal policies. People lost their jobs. Depression became commonplace for good reason. But wait, here’s a new miracle drug to help with your new-found depression.

Mainstream psychiatry doesn’t talk about the real causes of people’s suffering: joblessness, homelessness, poverty, racism, sexism, trauma, or parenting.

It’s just another instance where doctors use diagnoses to control behavior someone with clout (or potential for profit) has decided they don’t like.

I’ve been writing on this topic for the past few years on different platforms: LifeHack.org, Medium.com, and Quora.com. On the Quora forum, I answered a question and got a comment from a retired psychiatric nurse:

“You give false, harmful information, using Quora to promote your book. You’re not a recovered paranoid schizophrenic. You are in remission.”

This comment made me realize I had stepped into my power as an advocate for other victims of the mental health machine. Thanks, for your help, nurse!

About the Author

Don is an expat who has lived Mexico for 15 years. He is an ex-mental patient and a peer coach. Writing on Quora.com, he specializes in questions on “psychosis.” He facilitates journaling workshops. His self-published memoir is on Amazon, and his site has a monthly blog, “Letters From Mexico.” Visit his Facebook page, or contact him at don@donkarp.com.

 

Would You Like to Share Your Experiences Here?

This article in no way reflects my own opinions or viewpoints, nor have I done any fact-checking. I share it because I believe it’s important to look at a very important topic from all perspectives, and welcome comments and articles which bring in those perspectives as well. If you would like to have yours published (with the qualification that I won’t tolerate anything hateful nor which bashes others for disagreeing), you may send it to sheri@shericonaway.com. If I decide to publish your work, I’ll ask for a short bio and links to your website or work published on other sites.

Gazpacho Therapy

When Life Gets Too Serious, Go Chop Some Vegetables

For the last few days, I’ve been alternating between researching sites to pitch my family suicide stories and revising chapters of Life After Suicide: Healing and Forgiving for the serialization I’ve been doing on my website. To say the least, I’ve found my mood walking the narrow line between melancholy and downright sad.

It doesn’t help that I’ve had music from my high school days playing in the background. For anyone who really listens, the music of the 60’s and early 70’s runs the gamut of angry to joyful to disgusted to downright silly to protesting the world’s wrongs to celebrating the mere fact you’re alive. In short, a manic-depressive’s worst nightmare.

While I have had no indication that I inherited my family’s propensity towards actual mental illness (aka the Kozlowski crazy gene), I have been known to see my moods swing widely from one extreme to another on rare occasions. Granted, those occasions usually involved some sort of trigger which could justify such upheaval, and when they were over, I returned to my own version of normal.

Changing it Up For Mental Health…and a Week’s Worth of Healthy Meals

Fortunately, one of the items on today’s agenda was making another vat of gazpacho. A change of venue (away from the computer), a change of tunes (Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Chicago) and three hours of chopping veggies with a little spontaneous dancing are my cure for almost any ill. Laughing at myself for miscalculating and running out of bowl before I could add the last ingredient also went a long way to breaking me out of my melancholia.

Grief Doesn’t Die, it Simply Evolves

I know it has a lot to do with the amount of time I’ve been spending with the topic of family suicide and my own experiences in particular. Yesterday, I started editing Chapter 6 in preparation for scheduling the chapter for next week. It seemed to be taking a long time, and the words I’d written several years ago were causing memories to well to the surface like my over filled gazpacho bowl when I tried to seal the lid.

I don’t know how much time passed as I worked on the chapter, but I finally looked back at what I’d done and realized it was a lot of pages and I had several more to go before reaching the end of the chapter! After discovering the chapter was well over 7000 words long, I realized it had some natural breaks. Thus, Chapter 6 is now Chapters 6, 7 and 8.

As if reading my own thoughts wasn’t enough of a stroll down memory lane, my coach convinced me to start pitching psychology sites and publications with my story. Heaven knows I can approach it in a zillion different ways! But talking about it, studying it and pitching it takes its toll.

My Turn to Amuse the Universe

Oh, and did I mention there was another suicide in my extended family in the last couple of weeks? It’s been all I could do to not stop and shake my fist at the Universe. That delightful soul has been driving the point home with a sledgehammer for the last couple of weeks. I’m not over my parents’ deaths by suicide, nor will I ever really be. I get it.

I’ve learned a lot, processed more and gained insight, but I certainly don’t have all the answers, nor will I ever have them. There are just some things I’m not meant to know or understand, and that’s OK. There are still pockets of grief inside me. The difference is, they aren’t right on the surface any more, but take a particular trigger to wake them up. Each time they do come around, I’m able to release a little more. I’m able to forgive myself for another guilt capsule I swallowed whole.

Accepting, Forgiving, and Understanding

I believe this is how it is for anyone who loses a loved one. You never really stop missing them or thinking about them. Or grieving. Your grief just takes on different forms as your heart and mind deal with different aspects of the loss.

Will I ever stop regretting the fact that I didn’t see my mom’s pain? Will I forgive myself for not spending as much time with my dad when he became so negative? Will there ever come a day when I only feel love and no longer feel guilt when my parents come to mind? Probably not. But the volume and magnitude of the guilt is waning.

Is There a Gene for Insanity?

I happened upon an article about Mariel Hemingway today and how she’s lost 7 family members to suicide including her famous grandfather, Ernest. As I read the story, I learned her family has a long history of addiction and mental illness which forced her to take on adult responsibilities at a very young age. She, herself has battled depression.

My first thought was how normal my family is by comparison and how lucky I am that I am disinclined towards leaving this mortal coil any time soon. And yet…

The stories my mother would tell about my grandmother would make your hair stand on end. One of my cousins was forced to take responsibility for her siblings at a young age when her mother lost her ability to do so for a time. My parents were heavy drinkers and though it was always treated like a social activity, I can’t recall the passing of a single day when alcohol wasn’t applied liberally after a long day of work.

Granted, my dad’s life ending decision was the result of physical rather than mental issues, but then, his side of the family seemed, at least from my perspective to be better equipped to cope with the world unmedicated. That being said, I wasn’t even aware that my father had serious health problems, so maybe his relatives had just learned to hide things better. Once again, I’ll never really know.

Releasing What I Cannot Control to Protect My Health

At any rate, I know now that I need to make sure I give myself plenty of breaks between activities involving what my coach calls “Raw Sheri”. Whether I work on my fiction, make another mess in the kitchen, go to the gym or dance. I need to allow the breaks to just futz or bury myself in a book just for the pleasure of traveling to another place. Life is about balance, and clearly I’d been listing too far to starboard. I’m just glad I can figure it out and adjust accordingly.

Staying Mentally Healthy with Hefty Doses of Gratitude

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for my personal forms of therapy (which have saved me thousands of dollars, I might add). Most often, I write, but when that isn’t working or I just don’t have the patience, I can get up and move, clean, cook, dance, exercise…whatever I think will work.
2. I am grateful for my cats who are always nearby. Whether I’m cooking and dancing around the kitchen, giving them cause to keep their distance and look at me like I’ve lost a few marbles, or they’re joining me for a meditation, supervising my writing or snuggling at bedtime. Their love washes over me and makes me feel like part of their pride.
3. I am grateful for the huge vat of gazpacho in my refrigerator, even if I have to take it out tomorrow, pour it in a bigger bowl and mix in the broth.
4. I am grateful for friends who get where I’m coming from. I’m slowly getting used to not having them close by to meet for lunch or a movie, but instead, must reach out via phone or computer. But I know they’re there for me and I for them, however we have to make it work.
5. I am grateful for abundance: love, friendship, clients, inspiration, motivation, support, lessons, challenges, health, harmony, peace, philanthropy and prsoperity.

Blessed Be

August 12, 2014 A Phoenix rises from the ashes.

Inspiration from unexpected–and tragic places.

About six years ago, I sat down to document my journey towards acceptance. Not the usual sort of acceptance like the life I had or the diversity of my friends; no, I had been, for some years, on a journey to understand and accept the choice both of my parents made to take their own lives, not at the same time, but nearly ten years apart. Eventually, I felt that it was starting to come out as more of a document full of whining and ill-concealed blame, so I put it aside and started my blog, hoping that I’d return to my original purpose which was to help others who had lost a parent or parents to suicide.

Ironically, the last time I accessed the file was on the tenth anniversary of my father’s death, September 11, 2013. But in the last couple of days, something inside of me has changed.

Both the pain and the triumphs of others may now be my muse

As I read some of the many tributes for Robin Williams and even more, the stories people are telling about their own battles with depression, as well as those close to them, I think I’ve found the direction my book needs to take.

What’s behind the mask?

We all wear a mask from time to time, keeping our cards close to the vest, if you will. But some of us, many of us, I believe, only put one mask down to pick up another. Robin Williams, as well as many other comedic greats (or so I’ve been reading) hid behind a mask of comedy. Yet I always felt that there was an element of truth, of his own suffering in performances such as Mrs. Doubtfire. It was so incredibly believable that I could well have attributed it to his acting abilities (and a lot of it may well have been), but something inside told me that he’d really suffered the loss of his kids at one point. My mother hid a lifetime of being pushed to the back of the bus, so to speak. Her mother cast her out when her sister was born and the rest of the family received the message loud and clear: she was of no value to anyone. She was always looking for love in all the wrong places, and she had the biggest collection of masks I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t until many years after her death that I came to the realization that I never really knew the woman I called “Mom”. I have to wonder if anyone did.

At the moment, I’m putting the finishing touches on my first fantasy novel (slowly but surely), which I started last year when I just couldn’t go back to my book about family suicides. Suddenly, I feel compelled to get the novel finished so I can give my attention to the book that really got me writing again. I may end up trashing everything I have and starting clean, or I may take the part before I felt I was sinking into a quagmire of negativity, anger and blame. Either way, what I’m learning from others in the last couple of days is inspiring me to finish it and get it out there for the sake, not only of others who have felt the unimaginable pain of a parent taking their own life, but for those who have people in their lives who are crying out for help and love, and still have a chance to climb out of their own, personal abyss, if only the people who care will push aside the facades and see the sad, lonely person inside.

Out of tragedy, a greater good.

Yes, Mr. Williams death was tragic, and has impacted a lot of people who have loved his work for many, many years. But something beautiful is coming out of it. Those of us who have lost a family member to suicide were, in the past, made to feel shame and even responsibility for failing to prevent the suicide. Suddenly, people are opening up about the mental health issues which cause a person, no matter how successful on the outside, to remain a sad, lonely, unworthy person on the inside. Suddenly, what I’ve been saying for years, that suicide is a choice made when they’ve gone as far as they can go, is not being tossed aside as New Age drivel. There is a new awareness. Yes, many are saying that it will be gone in a few days, but I say, only if people like me, people who have lost a parent, a child, a cherished uncle, a good friend; speak out and credit the victims with facing their dark, twisty side for as long as they were able. Also, too, if those who fight depression or mental anguish of any kind on a regular basis continue to speak out honestly about their condition and give people a chance to move closer and help chase away the dark clouds.

It all boils down to this: As long as mental health issues and suicide are treated like anathema in which both victim and remaining family members are made to feel soiled and unworthy, the trend will continue and even, as one writer suggested, escalate. But if we truly open our hearts and our minds and see that there’s no blame, but instead, a need for more compassion, perhaps we can bring the numbers down until, ultimately, the only real reason people choose suicide is because they are terminally ill and their quality of life is gone forever.  Above all, I beg you to remember that we are all part of the same whole, part of Source.  How can we, in good conscience allow part of ourselves to atrophy and die, simply for lack of the nourishment of love and attention we have it in ourselves to give?

My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful for the compassion I’m reading about.
2. I am grateful for the opening up of the mental health/depression, Pandora’s box of an issue.
3. I am grateful for reminders that my mom took her life at my age as it reminds me to look at all I have in my life which is beautiful, loving and compassionate.
4. I am grateful for the return of my inspiration and motivation to write the book I need to write.
5. I am grateful for abundance; love, health, happiness, harmony, joy, compassion and prosperity.

Namaste

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: